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Ex gang leader launches million pound campaign

CAMPAIGN: Jennifer Blake is spearheading million pound fundraising effort

A FORMER female gang leader, who now helps steer others away from gang life, has launched a million pound fundraising campaign.

Jennifer Blake of Safe and Sounds, which runs workshops educating young people about the dangers of crime, said the money will help build a new youth centre which will also be the base for her organisation.

She told The Voice “We will be launching our One Million Challenge on the 13th of August. We are going to be asking people to donate one pound to raise enough money to build our centre. We just found that if you ask people for a little bit, you are more likely to get more than the man that asks for more,”


Blake, who recently stood as an Independent candidate for Peckham, south east London, in last year’s local council elections and who also independently advises the Metropolitan Police on youth crime issues, said it’s vital the campaign succeeds. Her work with young people in Peckham is now under threat from funding cuts.

She told The Voice: “Although the group remains the last one standing in the area, it is now facing government cuts. If my group closes down, there would be nowhere for the young people to turn to for help. What I am doing in the community is campaigning against knife and gun crime. Cutting some of our funding and taking away our centres is not really going to help our young people.”

In the work that she does, Blake uses her own experiences to show them what can happen if they take the wrong path.

The 44-year-old said she ended up in a gang after she ran away from home at the age of 13.

“I started as a good Peckham girl” she recalled “When I was 13, I started at Peckham Girls School and the trouble started - just as it does for too many teenagers in our neighbourhood,”

She rebelled against what she saw as a restricted church upbringing shortly after seeing how her friends at secondary school lived.

“When I ran away from home, I started mixing with the wrong sort of people and one thing led to another and before I know it, I am actually leading this gang. I became a gang leader at 13 and this led to me being put into a care home in Kent. But when I returned to London at 18, I still carried on with the wrong thing. I smoked cannabis and dealt drugs.”

She added “I was called babylove. We were like a posse. We were more about making a living; the young people of today are about reputation.”

Things went from bad to worse as Blake became more entrenched in gang lifestyle. “I have been to some very dark places. I was raped when I was in my home by someone that I knew but nothing happened to the person. Because of the lifestyle I led, I kind of thought I had to deal with it myself so nothing happened to him.”


Blake said her dire situation changed only when “ I decided to give my life to Christ. I was being threatened. I contemplated suicide because I didn’t know what to do so I decided to give God a try.”

Blake said that through Safe and Sounds she now tells young people that joining gangs is not about a lack of role models but “the choice each individual makes. Experience is the best teacher. I have seen some dark things and I use my experience to teach the kids. I use my experience to open their eyes a bit more about the choice that is always there. What you are in or what you are about to be in, you have to know the consequences.”

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